In our last episode, we looked at the decision by Virginia Woolf and her husband Leonard to purchase a printing press and run it out of their home. What began as a hobby – a relief from the strains of writing – soon turned into a genuine business, as The Hogarth Press met with success. And when Virginia published one of her most famous stories “Kew Gardens,” the dam burst, and the Woolfs and their press had to prepare for a dramatic increase in sales. In this episode, Jacke continues and concludes the story of the Hogarth Press, including a close look at the story that changed the press’s fortunes.
Virginia Woolf has long been celebrated as a supremely gifted novelist and essayist. Less well known, but important to understanding her life and contributions to literature, are her efforts as a publisher. In the decades that she and her husband operated the Hogarth Press – starting with a hand-operated printer they ran on their dining room table, cranking out one page at a time – they published some Modernist classics, including works by Virginia and The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot. In this episode, Jacke takes a look at the decision to buy the press, the effect it had on Virginia’s life and writing career, and the very first book the Woolfs put out: Two Stories, featuring Leonard’s short story “Three Jews” and Virginia’s “The Mark on the Wall.”
It’s a paradox that has bothered Shakespeare’s fans for centuries: the man was as insightful into human beings as anyone whoever lived, and yet his own life is barely documented. This combination of literary genius plus biographical uncertainty has spun off a number of mysteries – including the question of how exactly Shakespeare came to know the things that he did.
In this episode, Jacke talks to investigative journalist Michael Blanding, author of In Shakespeare’s Shadow, about a renegade scholar named Dennis McCarthy’s theory that Shakespeare may have drawn upon a previously unknown source – the lost plays of Sir Thomas North – and how Blanding himself joined the pursuit of searching for evidence to support McCarthy’s theory.
For years, we’ve enjoyed talking to writers about the books they love best. In this “best of” episode, we go deep into the archive for three of our favorites: Jim Shepard and his youthful discovery of Bram Stoker’s Dracula; Margot Livesey and her love for Ford Madox Ford’s modernist classic The Good Soldier; and Charles Baxter telling us about his love for the poetry of James Wright. Enjoy!
Since the first publication of his six-volume magnum opus, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon (1734-1797) has been ranked among the greatest historians who ever lived. What made his work different? Does it hold up today? And what lessons can a modern-day historian draw from his example? In this episode, Jacke talks with author Zachary Karabell about Gibbon’s inspiration, influence, and legacy.
ZACHARY KARABELL is the author of numerous books, including Inside Money: Brown Brothers Harriman and the American Way of Power and The Leading Indicators: A Short History of the Numbers That Rule Our World. He is also the founder of the Progress Network at New America, the president of River Twice Capital, and the host of the podcast “What Could Go Right?”
Additional listening suggestions:
321 Thucydides 285 Herodotus 36 Poetry and Empire (Virgil, Ovid, Horace, Petronius, Catullus) Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. The History of Literature Podcast is a member of Lit Hub Radio and the Podglomerate Network. Learn more at http://www.thepodglomerate.com/historyofliterature.
Summertime! The season for watching blockbuster movies in arctic conditions, heart-pounding suspense flicks that heat the blood, and cool-breeze dramas that stir the soul. In this best-of episode, Jacke celebrates the summer with portions of conversations with three previous guests, Brian Price, Meg Tilly, and Mike Palindrome.
Very few novelists can match the ambition or output of French novelist Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850). A pioneer of the great nineteenth-century “realism” tradition, his novel sequence La Comédie Humaine presents a panoramic view of post-Napoleonic France. Containing something like 90 finished novels and novellas, Balzac’s achievement has influenced writers like Hugo, Dickens, Flaubert, and Henry James. In this episode, Jacke talks to contemporary novelist Carlos Allende (Coffee, Shopping, Murder, Love) about his love for Balzac and his works.
It’s the Christina Rossetti episode! Jacke finally musters up the energy to finish what he started, and takes a look at one of the great poets of the Victorian era (and the creator of “Goblin Market,” one of the strangest poems he has ever read. How did this seemingly prim, even matronly woman, known for her religious devotion and for rejecting three suitors on mostly religious grounds, come to write such a bizarre and hedonistic poem? What did she say about posing for the pre-Raphaelites and their paintings? What did John Ruskin and Virginia Woolf say about her? Let’s find out!
Because Jacke could not stop for the scheduled episode topics, a certain poem kindly stopped for him. Luckily it’s one of the greatest poems of all time! It’s by the 19th-century American genius Emily Dickinson, and it packs into seven short stanzas a journey through life, death, and the cosmos.
It’s one of the great mysteries in American history. The “lost colony” of Roanoke Island, where 120 or so men, women, and children living in the first permanent English settlement in North America simply disappeared, leaving behind nothing but a mysterious word carved into a tree trunk. While historians remain baffled, speculation has run rampant, with everything from massacre to relocation to space alien abduction taking their turns as potential theories. What happened to those people? And is there any way to tell their story? In this episode, Jacke talks to author Kimberly Brock about her novel The Lost Book of Eleanor Dare, which extends the mystery of Roanoke and its legacy from the late seventeenth century to the mid-twentieth.